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Business Observer Friday, Jan. 23, 2009 12 years ago

One Man Show

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Chris Abbott juggles several businesses and projects at once. He's betting at least one will be a big hit.
by: Mark Gordon Managing Editor

Chris Abbott juggles several businesses and projects at once. He's betting at least one will be a big hit.

Chris Abbott is something of a paradox.

He can be grossly impatient, yet many of his business lines require gobs of time to grow.

He admittedly can have a short attention span but he once held a job — U.S. Army tank commander — where a lack of attention could get a man killed.

And even though his businesses and ideas are as far-flung as developing commercial real estate to selling software that enables employers to monitor their staff's Internet usage, his organizational skills bring a calm simplicity to almost any project.

The contradictions work. Abbott, 31, runs Abbeton, a one-man company with several units and divisions that all fall under what he calls a “building businesses” umbrella. One unit provides Internet marketing and consulting to other small businesses, another one focuses on real estate-related projects and a third one concentrates on inventing and selling a range of consumer products, from software to a decorative montage for computer monitors.

“I accomplish a ton in one day,” says Abbott, “but it's not enough.”

Abbott has about a dozen or so projects currently in action, but the three he spends the most time on right now are Ryntal, a property management firm he is hoping to take nationwide; Dillard Commons, a 62,000-square-foot office park he's developing just west of Orlando; and Monton, a three-sided computer monitor accessory that can stick to a monitor and display anything from family pictures to a company logo.

Ryntal has occupied a good deal of Abbott's time the past four months. His mission is to create a grassroots-like network of Realtors and agents nationwide that can earn commissions by signing over unsold properties to his company.

Abbott has split his Ryntal time working out the kinks of the company's Web site and managing actual properties in Sarasota and Bradenton with his contract hired staff. “When I look at this opportunity, this is where I need to be,”

Abbott says. “This is where the market is going.”

While Ryntal has required much of Abbot's time, Dillard Commons is occupying much of his bank account. “I would say that this project represents most of my life savings,” says Abbott, only half-kidding.

The project, to be built in Winter Garden, is on land Abbott has owned for a few years. The site and project has all the necessary approvals, says Abbott, and he got the best news late last year: A bank in central Florida has agreed to put up $5 million in financing for the project, a deal that was 13 months in the making.

Abbott says he gets his entrepreneurial drive from his grandfather, Richard Abbott. The senior Abbott owned a small airline company in Miami that shipped cattle, among other business interests. Chris Abbott grew up in Naples and spent many days building things, from toys to sheds, with his grandfather.

The younger Abbott also spent time in decidedly non-entrepreneurial pursuits before officially launching Abbeton last year. First, Abbott graduated from the Virginia Military Institute, a precursor to his three years in the Army that saw him rise to the rank of captain. He eventually oversaw a tank platoon of 32 soldiers, both in South Carolina and overseas.

But even back then, despite being part of a large bureaucracy like the military, Abbott had a do-it-yourself mindset. For instance, Abbott launched his own seller's page on Amazon.com while he was stationed in South Korea. He sold everything from his software products to mink blankets. On the latter, Abbott bought the blankets for $7 in Korea and sold them to people in the States for $80.

The Army, though an officers-job placing program, later helped Abbott find work in Orlando with KB Homes, coordinating land deals and overseeing construction projects. That job led to more work with other developers in Florida and on the Gulf Coast; Abbott also worked for Naples-based Stock Development under Brian Stock, the Review's 2006 Entrepreneur of the Year for the Fort Myers-Naples region.

It was Abbott's mentors in the development community, entrepreneurs themselves, that finally pushed him strike out on his own.

“When is the best time to start a business?” Abbott would ask some of the people in business he admired. The answerer he received the most: Today.

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